Developing learning materials requires mental flexibility. You have to bend your thinking to wrap itself inside and around the project objectives. Some days, you are faced with heavy, academic projects, where the highlight of the day coincides with you spotting that delinquent isosceles triangle masquerading as an equilateral. Other days, the challenge is less academic and rather reminiscent of carefree playtime. But therein lies the delight of learning: there is no one right way to encourage learning. Variety keeps the learning experience engaging for the developer and the user of the learning materials. Learning materials can take the form of textbooks so heavy they could serve as lethal weapons if you tapped them a little too vigorously on someone’s head. But learning materials can just as easily evolve as toys, art assignments, woodworking tasks, sewing projects, or some other imaginative activity. Some people may not consider craft kits to be more than a pre-planned activity to keep children busy, but crafting is a wonderful way for children (and adults) to learn on a number of different levels. Craft kits lean towards the “playtime” edge of the learning spectrum, so the lessons learned by crafting are not always obvious in an academic sense. It’s unlikely that an activity such as making a handmade greeting card will directly affect your ability to ace your next calculus test. However, making greeting cards along with any other crafting activity you engage in, should be stimulating your imagination while contributing to your skill repertoire. (Next time you buy a book or toy for your child, ask yourself what they will gain by using your gift.)
One of the highlights on my work this month was the opportunity to design a new greeting card kit. The first run of these “MAKE A FACE” DIY card kits were released last week. These kits are currently available from Zisubu Artique, a craft store on Etsy.
When I sat down to design this kit, I wanted to give families the opportunity to gather around the kitchen table and make something unusual together. But, I didn’t want something so unusual (in the bizarre sense of the word) that it would be destined for the trash bin. I like to make practical, useful craft items for myself, so I usually try to maintain that same objective when designing for others. Greeting cards are an enjoyable way for people of all ages to share their thoughts, encourage others, and practise gratitude. And what better way to add value to the words you share, than by making the greeting card yourself? The “MAKE A FACE” DIY card kit contains most of what you need to make a character-focused, handmade greeting card. You add the craft glue and a marker pen (or colored pencils, if you prefer). A pair of scissors is not required, unless you want to take your creativity to the next level. Even though this looks like a children’s craft item, don’t be fooled. It’s best to stock up on enough kits to satisfy the whole family, because no-one can resist googly eyes. The “MAKE A FACE” kit is the kind of kit that will bring out hidden creativity in everyone from the pre-schooler to grandpa.
Crafting has the tendency to become tedious if it’s too easy, so I like to throw a challenge into my kit designs, even if its just a small challenge. Don’t be alarmed – the “MAKE A FACE” kits involve a little more than gluing. Yes, you get to draw! And yes, I know some people are terrified of drawing, because someone way back in their past made them believe they are useless at drawing. If that is you, then today is your day to start afresh. Treat this kit as if it is your first drawing assignment ever, and remember that the character you create is all yours. You can’t draw your character incorrectly, because your character comes from inside your head. If he ends up with a crooked smile, broken nose, messed up hair, and squint eyes then BRAVO! THAT is your character and you created him to look that way. Don’t let anyone tell you differently.
Included in the kit are five blank head shapes. They are your foundation for character development. I cut these heads free hand, so every kit is guaranteed to have five unique starter characters for you to play with. You can use all five heads on your card, but I prefer working with three heads. Glue down your favorite heads in any arrangement you like. Now add the googly (moving) eyes. The eyes are everyone’s favorite bit, but watch out for “jumping eyes”. The googly eyes tend to build up static and may jump out of your hand when you try to free them from the package they come in. Hold on tight or you will crawling around on the floor looking for eyeballs.
Once the heads and eyes are glued in place, you can free your inner creative genius. Start small by adding a curved line as a smile. If that doesn’t seem too scary, add a wild hairstyle, a scarf, perhaps a bowtie, or even a hat. Still feeling the flow of creative juices? Go on. Don’t stop now. Add a body. Remember that there are no rules here – the creature you create can be terrestrial or alien, so don’t worry if you end up with three legs and seven hands. Mistakes can evolve into something quite remarkable, if you permit it.
If you are doing this activity as a family or in a group environment, encourage the participants to talk about the characters they are creating. Share ideas. Develop a story together. This is a great opportunity to help young people develop story-telling skills.
When your character card is complete, turn it over and attach the “made especially for you by….” label provided in the kit package. Sign the label so the card’s recipient knows who put in the effort to make such a memorable greeting. Then give your handmade card to someone and let that person know you how much they mean to you.